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The Department of Justice – and common sense – tells us that violence against women is predominantly committed by men.
With women’s personal safety always at the forefront, learning to use “male-encoded” language can be very helpful in certain circumstances.
Broadly speaking, aggressive males only understand communications – verbal and non-verbal – that read as male.
This is not to diminish the power and effectiveness of communication styles that are traditionally female-coded.
It’s about what works in a confrontation between an aggressive man and an intimidated woman.
Of course, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to … avoid it. Leave the scene when you can. But real life doesn’t always work that way, and you need to have some strategies in mind so you’ll know what to do if confronted by an angry, aggressive, or otherwise inappropriate person.
When a woman is dealing with a confrontational male, the social contract tells us to be quiet, not make a scene, and hope the encounter ends quickly.
We are told, implicitly and explicitly, that speaking up for ourselves makes things worse.
The truth is, being quiet and submissive was always a deeply flawed solution, and when faced with a nonresistant woman, many men will feel empowered to escalate the violence.
And politely asking an aggressor to stop being aggressive simply doesn’t work.
Although it goes against our collective cultural conditioning, oftentimes the best response to a confrontational or inappropriate male is to be loud and firm, in a tone that allows no room for negotiation or argument.
This assertive verbal language and accompanying body language is often what we consider “male-encoded.”
Consider the difference between a woman quietly saying, “Please stop doing that. You’re making me feel uncomfortable,” versus the same woman saying, “YOU! CUT THAT OUT!” while making a noticeable jerking motion with her thumb.
The assertive approach accomplishes two things: it puts the aggressor on notice that you are NOT an easy target and whatever he does to you will come with a consequence; and it alerts anyone nearby that you are in a precarious situation and they may need to step in or call for help.
Before you’re ever faced with a situation, think of aggressive phrases men use, and role-play saying these same things out loud. Practice until you’re comfortable saying these things firmly, authoritatively, and are able to call them up instantly.
“YOU! CUT IT OUT!” “GET OUTTA HERE!” “BACK OFF!” “HEY YOU! SHUT IT!” and “YOU BACK UP!” are some examples. Drop your voice to a deeper register and deliver loud, firm COMMANDS, NOT REQUESTS, like a drill sergeant – as if you EXPECT to be obeyed, and anything else is unthinkable.
Use male-encoded body language when you issue these commands. Stand at attention – straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, head up, with a serious face. Look fearless and resolved. At the same time, maintain your personal space as much as possible, as staying out of reach is always important.
Don’t worry about being rude or making a scene. Go on and MAKE A SCENE.
Your personal safety always supersedes other people’s feelings.
Using assertive, male-encoded language should always be one of your strategies in maintaining your personal security.
– Jennifer Kaminer, January 21, 2017
At the Front Door
Home health providers, social workers, nurses and other field-based professionals know to be on guard when knocking on a client’s door, especially during that first visit. Personal safety is paramount.
Here are the four strategies you can use to make you that much safer while knocking on someone’s door, whether for the first time or the hundredth time.
Distance is Always Your Friend
Knock and step back several feet. (If you are knocking on the door of a trailer home, perhaps reach through the railings and knock on the bottom of the door to avoid the stairs.)
Creating space between you and the door gives you more time to react if a negative situation arises. Police refer to this as the “reactionary gap,” or “reactionary cushion.”
Stay off the Center Line
Moving to the side takes you off the center line and leaves you a bit less vulnerable to something like a dog charging out the door.
Hinge Side of the Door
As you step to the side try whenever possible to stand on the hinge side of the door frame. This allows you to see a more of the room behind the person opening the door than if on the door handle side.
Partial “Blading” for Your Body
Once you’re back and away and off to the hinge side of the frame, remember to angle your body at about 45 degrees toward the door, as opposed to facing the door square with your shoulders. Angling or partially “blading” your body in this manner allows you monitor what is going on behind you as well as keep an eye on the door. This positioning also allows you to more quickly turn away from the door and leave rapidly if the situation called for it.
It Happened to Me: A True Story From Lone Worker Training:
The provider said she did everything described above but for the partial blading stance. She said her shoulders were square to the door, and when it was opened she was shoved from behind into the residence and robbed of her possessions.
Does this happen every day? Of course not. But knowing what is going on behind you at the door and at all times is critical and makes you a much “harder target.”
**A simple technique that will help you cover that BLIND SPOT behind you.
If you will be working late, be sure to move your vehicle to a well light parking place that is closest to the door by which you will exit before it gets dark.
Do not leave valuables in view inside your car.
Try and leave the building with co workers if possible. The buddy system leaves you less vulnerable.
A small high intensity flashlight is helpful for illuminating the area around and under your vehicle, and allows you to check the back seat before unlocking and getting in.
Have your keys in your hands before you leave the building and remember to use the panic button on your key fob if you sense something is amiss.
Try and walk down the middle of the parking aisle keeping as much distance between you and the parked cars on either side. Don’t take shortcuts between vehicles.
Always walk with purpose and scan your surroundings.
Once in your vehicle, lock the doors immediately and get underway.
Always trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about walking out to your vehicle don’t!
Having a lone worker safety and communications plan outline in place is critical for any agency that has staff in the field. This includes those that work from home part or full time.
Your office based employees may have the benefit of a secure facility. Your lone workers face a completely different set of personal safety and security issue.
I’ve invited Kevin Dogen, Executive Director of SafeTeam, a technology leader in this space, to a write a guest Blog that illustrates the importance of including an Emergency Notification System in any Safety and Communications plan you devise.
A lone worker in the field (we’ll call him Jim) is confronted with a situation that compromises his safety. He’s in a difficult spot and doesn’t have time to call for help. Since his company’s safety procedures are based on human communication, his supervisors have no idea he’s in trouble and won’t for some time… while Jim’s need for help is immediate.
With an Emergency Notification System in place to alert Jim’s supervisors, his lone worker safety scenario is quite different:
It starts at 9:00 AM with Jim “Checking In” to the system via cell phone upon arrival at his destination. It’s a 2 hour visit. The system prompts him to provide details on where he is, what client he’s visiting, and the color and make of his vehicle. Once completed, it stands by for him to call no later than 11:00 AM to “Check-Out”.
When 11:00 AM comes and he hasn’t “Checked-out”, the system calls his cell phone but he doesn’t pick up. The system waits 5 minutes and calls again. Again he doesn’t answer. This raises a potential red flag where the system triggers as escalation procedure by contacting 3 designated contacts.
They’re able to listen to Jim’s Check-In call so they know his location. One of the designated contacts places a call to the client. They don’t answer. He next calls the police, providing the address. In an instant, the response time has been dramatically reduced in what might be a serious situation.
While the odds of this happening are slim, you need only do a quick Google search to see how often it does occur. The question then is whether to presume that it won’t happen to your people or be pro-actively cautious by including an ENS into your Safety and Communication Plans.
In some ways, it’s like an insurance policy and without it, not only are your employees exposed, your company is as well, based on the financial implications that come into play. The National Center for Victims of Crime notes that the average cost for a single episode of violence in the workplace is $250,000 in lost time, medical expenses & legal costs.
Having an ENS in place not only reduces your company’s legal exposure, it also sends a strong message to your field workers that their safety is your primary concern.
In the end it’s a numbers game. You can consider that because you’ve never had an incident in the field, the probability is too small to be concerned. On the flipside, you might count your blessings, recognize that the risk is ever-present and take your Safety and Communication Plans to the next level.
To see Safe Team’s Emergency Notification System in action click here
Kevin’s Contact information appears below
Social Worker Personal Safety Training (6 Hours NASW Continuing Education Units)
This story was told to me by an executive when the topic of elevators and personal safety came up.
She states her daughter was riding in an elevator with her on the way to their room on the 5th floor of their hotel. An ordinary-looking young man entered the elevator when it stopped on the second floor. The elevator doors opened again on the third floor at which time a young women boarded.
The executive said she got a bad vibe from the young man and woman but was not able to pinpoint why. Her gut-feeling that something was amiss was intensified when she noticed these apparent strangers make very brief eye contact, as if communicating with one another.
The doors opened on the 5th floor; the young man and woman exited before the executive and her daughter. The young man went left and the young woman right, again looking as if they were not together.
The executive pulled her daughter back into the elevator just as the doors began to close. Her daughter looked confused by her mother’s actions until she explained. The young man and woman were working as a team but entered the elevator on separate floors to camouflage this fact. The executive’s daughter was looking down at her Smartphone during the elevator ride and missed the subtle cues her mother noticed: the incongruent body language, darting eyes and very brief eye contact.
Because her mother was paying attention, she connected the dots and understood these pre-crime indicators for what they were. This information led her to understand that the man and woman going in opposite directions upon exiting the elevator were not as they appeared. On the surface, it looked like two people that did not know one another, but, in fact, it was two people setting up to position and trap the executive and her daughter in the quiet hallway.
Law enforcement reminds us that criminals are working more frequently as male/female teams, often to look like couples. This is because so many of us assume females are less inclined to engage in crime, especially violent crime and because a couple will draw less attention from law enforcement than a pair or group of young males.
Human beings are the most cunning predators of all. Remember to “think outside the box” Not every situation is what it appears to be. An observant person will be able to pick up on subtle cues that something is amiss. Those that are not paying attention miss those critical moments in which a ruse may be seen for what it is and too often become victims of an avoidable crime.